Jazz Ensemble Concert: From Cole Porter to Radiohead

On Sunday, November 19th, the Swarthmore College Jazz Ensemble will perform in Lang Concert Hall. The concert begins at 7:30 and will feature the 21-piece student ensemble. They will perform a cross-section of music from the Great American Songbook, Latin jazz, big band standards and modern rock. Andrew Neu has been the conductor of the ensemble since 2014 and continues the long tradition of big band jazz at Swarthmore.

The program begins with the jazz standard “In a Mellow Tone,” composed by Duke Ellington. This arrangement was written by saxophonist Oliver Nelson and recorded by the Buddy Rich Big Band. It features freshman trumpeter, Owais Noorani-Kamtekar. The appropriately titled “Kids Are Pretty People,” by Thad Jones, was originally composed to be performed in the tiny jazz clubs of New York City. This performance features Sam Gardner on trombone. “What is This Thing Called Love” was composed by Cole Porter and arranged by conductor Andrew Neu. This up-tempo treatment features Vaughn Parts on alto saxophone and Josh Freier on tenor saxophone. Josh is again featured on the jazz ballad “Misty,” a tune made famous by Johnny Mathis. The first half wraps up with a very atypical piece for jazz ensemble. Originally recorded by the rock band Radiohead, “Bodysnatchers” has been adapted for big band by Fred Sturm. It was commissioned by the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble and features Nathan Anderson on soprano saxophone, Sumi Onoe on piano, and Max Marckel on baritone saxophone.

The second half begins with “Cottontail,” another Duke Ellington piece, this one arranged by Duke himself. Olivia Gubler takes the lead on tenor sax. “Lament” is a haunting ballad composed by trombonist J.J. Johnson, and features Ben Hejna and the entire trombone section. Eric Chen plays a Debussy-inspired solo interlude on piano in the middle of the piece. Continuing with another intimate piece by Thad Jones, “Tip Toe” is based on the chord progression to “I Got Rhythm” in the less standard key of Ab. It features the saxophone section up front and a challenging trombone and bass soli featuring Derek Kinsella on the bass. Audiences will also hear solos from Owais, Josh, and Nathan, this time on alto saxophone.

The finale of the concert is an epic Latin jazz piece by trumpeter Arturo Sandoval called “A Mis Abuelos.” This tribute to his grandparents naturally features the trumpet section, along with Dakota Gibbs on guitar. Seth Stancroft drives it to the end with an open drum solo.

This year, the Department of Music and Dance is very excited to host jazz singer Janis Siegel at Swarthmore. She is a founding member of the musical group Manhattan Transfer and a multiple Grammy-award winner. On February 11, she will lead a workshop and perform a concert with pianist John DiMartino, bassist Gerald Veasley, and Andrew Neu on saxophone. She will join the Swarthmore College Jazz Ensemble for a special concert on April 7. This is a great opportunity to hear a world-renowned musician perform with the talented jazz students of Swarthmore College.

Andrew Neu